How to make (sort of) healthy vending machine choices.

Aaahh…the vending machine. Both friend and foe. I think anyone who works in an office knows what I’m talking about. (Apologies for all the crap phone pictures that are to follow.)

Avoid it if you can.

It’s 3 or 4 p.m. and you’ve got the munchies. You don’t want to wait till you get out of work to eat. Or in my case, you don’t want to eat the snack you brought to work. So off to the vendo you go. You think this machine is your friend because it eases your pain with delicious combinations of salt and starch and sugar and chocolate. But it’s really your enemy because these snack items are usually pretty crappy.

I’ve gotten to the point where I can usually avoid the more processed options. Although I do occasionally give in and get Andy Capp Hot Fries. Sometimes they hit the spot, man…big time.

Totally worth the processed food consumption.

Out of all the options in my job’s vending machine, the Mr. Nature Unsalted Trail Mix is the best choice. Ingredients are Peanuts (vegetable oil or peanut oil), raisins, sunflower kernals, walnuts and almonds. I don’t know what the vegetable/peanut oil deal is, but I’ll take that over milled corn products and HFCS.

The winner!

Next up is Nature Valley Peanut Butter Crunchy Granola bar. I love these pretty hardcore. They’re not that healthy, and certainly not a “clean” food, but you could do worse. Ingredients are: whole grain rolled oats, canola oil, peanut butter (peanuts, salt), yellow corn flour, brown sugar syrup, soy flour, salt, soy lecithin, baking soda. (Although this link cites it as having HFCS, but that wasn’t listed on the label of the bar I had). They’re okay if you’re in a pinch. Kinda like picking the lesser of the evils.

The work vending machine has plenty of crappy food that pretends to be healthy. Keep in mind that most commercial granola bars are made up of unrefined sugar, HFCS and other low-quality ingredients.

So small and unassuming. Don't be deceived!

Blurry, but you get the point. That's a long list of ingredients!

Like the Special K 90 calories bars. Look at that ingredient list!

A long list of doo doo.

And the Kellogg’s Nutrigrain Cereal bars. Here’s a tip I learned from In Defense of Food: healthy food doesn’t need to make a health claim. Anything that does have a health claim (like this cereal bar–More Whole Grains!) is usually BS garbage food. Would you ever see a sticker that says PACKED WITH FIBER! on an apple? No.

This Nature Valley Strawberry Yogurt bar is pretty unhealthy too. 100% natural my ass. First time I’ve heard of high maltose corn syrup.

Obviously not every vending machine is going to offer the same products. But here are some tips to make a healthier choice if you decide to hit up the vendo:

1. Stay away from potato chips and chocolate bars and honey buns. I don’t think I need to explain this one. (Although if you must have chips, opt for Sun Chips or Baked Lays. Like I said, the lesser of the evils.)

2. Peanuts and unsalted trail mix are probably going to be best options. Although beware of  BIG bags of trail mix. They usually have a lot of salt and sugar added, and it’s a large serving. I wouldn’t recommend getting anything that is bigger than the size of a granola bar.

3. Ask yourself if you’re really hungry or just getting junk food because it’s in front of you or you’re bored. If you suspect that you’re eating out of boredom, try drinking water and occupying yourself with something else.

4. Try picking a low a low-calorie snack. I know I just said that Special K 90 calorie bar had terrible ingredients, but I think it’s better to eat a smaller portion of something crappy than a larger portion of it.

Indulging in some junk food every now and then isn’t going to kill you. But if you’re hitting up a vending machine every day, then keep things in mind. And consider planning ahead and bringing healthy snacks to work/school with you.

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